Locklin on science

The Caio Duilio class: torpedo boat carrier and battleship

Posted in big machines, Design by Scott Locklin on November 29, 2022

Some years ago I wrote about the Battleship as concept and why it is both ridiculous and awesome, and very European in its conception. I mentioned something in the comments about the Torpedo obsoleting the concept of the battleship and suggested building a big cargo boat filled with torpedo boats as the sort of torpedo boat carrier using maneuver warfare before the aircraft carrier. Steampunk mongolian horseman maneuver warfare before the advent of aircraft. As is usual in seemingly clever ideas, turns out someone thought of it a long time ago. As with so many genius ideas, it was thought up by Italians. I was reminded of it recently by looking through some old personal photos from the Venetian naval museum.

I’ve never really opined on Italian engineering, but it really is something special in world culture. Italians don’t have the perfectionist autism of Japanese or Germans (or the Victorian era English), but they have flair and genius in spades. Only a Germanic autiste supreme could have lapped the ultimate screw, or invented the screw cutting lathe, but when it comes to thunderbolts of genius it hard to beat the Mediterranean cultures; Italians in particular. Usually an Italian design looks and performs amazing and only works when it is in the mood -at best really, who can say how many Leonardos repose in notebooks and Borsalino hats without actually coming to fruition. Generally the aspirations of Italian engineering are greater than the actual capabilities. If the EU weren’t being run into rubble by the Euro version of neurotic soccer moms, the continent could become a manufacturing and military hyperpower by combining Italian creative genius with German autism and Franco-German industrial power. Imagine Ferraris that actually function properly and have intelligent (aka Porsche tier autism) user interface and design. Now imagine that applied to military technology. Alas, unless the Russians nuke the American colonial pig-dogs and free us Europeans from our oppressors, this will never happen.

The Regia Marina was tasked with building a battleship in 1873; pre Dreadnaught era. As a reminder, the Kingdom of Italy was founded in 1861: Italy hadn’t existed as a united, independent country before that date since Roman times. The Italian people had been fragmented, enslaved and bullied by international powers literally for millennia, and they finally had a nation of their own. It was a peak time for Italian zeal and genius; heights not seen since the Renaissance or the Venetian empire. Italians know all this, but few others seem to. The design of this ship, as much Italian of this era was a work of genius.

Some of it was conventional for the era. It used echelon mounted central turrets (weird but I assume fulfilled some combat doctrine of the day) with barbettes (always were retard tier) as secondary gun mounts. The big guns were remarkable for size: 18 inch projectiles; bigger than any other contemporary ship. It was festooned with torpedo tubes as many other contemporary boats were, it had an old fashioned ram just like an ancient Greek Trireme or Venetian Galley, and was the first battleship in history to do away with the residual sail system. Navies until that point didn’t trust the steam engine to bring the boat home in the event of a mechanical problem. More importantly for the topic of this poast it had exactly the innovation I suggested; a sort of docking bay for a fast torpedo boat.

Battleships are displacement ships, this generation could do something like 15 knots at flank speed. Torpedo boats could do 30 knots by using a planing hull. For those of you not familiar with nautical engineering: displacement hulls are what every boat until the steam engine used: they will have an absolute top speed in knots of square root of the waterline in feet times 1.3. This is an important fact in naval tactics; it means your biggest boats go fastest and until the steam engine it was always true. Planing hulls became possible with high power steam engines. Your planing hull boat basically skims across the water held up by the power of the engine. Think, cigarette boat. The problem with displacement hulls is short range and huge fuel consumption. They also are difficult in heavy seas. However, a planing hull torpedo boat can literally run rings around the biggest and fastest battleship. So the genius idea is to bring your torpedo boat along with you and attack enemies with maneuver warfare while you lob volkswagon size shells at it. If it were me, I’d have added more torpedo boats and left the 18″ clobber guns on shore, but these are 19th century Italians we’re talking about, so they needed tumescent codpiece guns to intimidate their enemies. Everyone in those days knew the little Torpedo boat was the future; Admiral Stepan Makarov used them with success against battleships in 1877 in the forgotten (but current year relevant) Russo Turkish war.


This boat had a lot of other cool ideas in it; it had thick armors, lots of innovative floodable bulkheads (still high technology in those days),  very powerful and interesting armor arrangements which influenced later designs, and was also designed as a troop carrier as Italy had designs on a North African empire as the New Rome. It was easily the most advanced battleship of its time and was terrifying to all contemporary naval commands across the world for its cleverness and use of technology.

Alas it had some very obvious flaws; you had to move the rudders with chain gangs in an open air position at the rear. Everyone else had the same problem; we hadn’t invented hydraulic rudder systems yet. This is an almost archetypical Shitalian engineering blunder: you include a bunch of fancy armor schemes, a revolutionary torpedo boat mother ship, the biggest guns on a ship ever shipped, and you make your steering dependent on a bunch of ballistically naked sailors who can easily be turned to bone flecked jelly by a bit of grapeshot. They didn’t even have a tent or tin shack to protect them from the elements. The designer was so excited by all his innovations he couldn’t be arsed to make a reliable steering mechanism. Another serious flaw: most of the tech; guns and boilers were imported rather than natively sourced. Native sources  didn’t exist yet, because Italy was only a decade or two old; too young to have implemented an industrial policy, without which you will have no industry (much like the US since we stopped having an industrial policy). Finally the biggest flaw: they didn’t actually ever include the Torpedo Boat; I think they fitted out the area as an opulent officers mess instead. This is possibly the most Italian blunder ever.

The Caio Duilio class (sister ship similarly epic name of Enrico Dandolo) never saw action, like many  innovative ships in a time of great technological upheavals. Its designer, Benedetto Brin is lost to the mists of history, but men like him are what drove technology forward; not human chum committee dipshits at megacorps dumping nonsense like the Littoral Combat Ship on us. Individual geniuses of tremendous vision invent the future; their designs may have flaws or be transitional forms to some ultimate form. In this case the Dreadnaught was the ultimate form.

25 Responses

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  1. Altitude Zero said, on November 30, 2022 at 8:29 pm

    This sounds like the kind of ship I would have designed when I was twelve years old, minus a couple of lasers and helicopters – they really were thinking outside the box then. Anyway, since I don’t know jack about either crypto or high finance, this is the kind of topic I can relate to. The Italians really do have it when they are on, don’t they?

  2. Dave said, on December 1, 2022 at 4:56 pm

    I seem to remember, but can’t say for sure where, an Alfa Romeo designer responding to a Ford executive’s question about the focus groups they used. The Alfa guy was gobsmacked that you would ask joe public about beauty in design.

    • JMcG said, on December 2, 2022 at 2:21 am

      Ford sure didn’t ask anyone about beauty in regard to the new Mustang. Terrible job. My Alfa Spider is the car I miss most out of all I’ve had. It was sublime. And rusty.

  3. nate-m said, on December 2, 2022 at 5:17 am

    The pre-dreadnaught era was always the more interesting era of battleships to me. Lots of weird designs, lots of bristling guns, etc. Even the metallurgy is interesting… Krupp steel vs Harvey steel. Them figuring out hardness and strength and so on and so forth.

  4. toastedposts said, on December 6, 2022 at 1:52 pm

    I don’t have much to add about naval engineering, so here’s a random soundtrack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FId9IfpKuZQ&t=220s

    Learning some things though.

  5. toastedposts said, on December 8, 2022 at 10:50 am

    You mentioned before that you’re somewhere in Europe now. Is there anywhere in Europe that isn’t behaving as insanely as the rest of the world, right now?

    As far as I can tell from random news and internet rumors:
    Holland’s government is stealing land from farmers after banning fertilizer and putting them in a position where they were being driven bankrupt. (Every Western country is going to try to follow suit and ban the nitrogenation of soil – it’s some green insanity radiating from the WEF, and it’s going to starve the world.)
    Germany just had some kind of nationwide simultaneous swat raid on a few hundred people for talking on the internet.
    In France, their elections were basically faked. Macron won with the mostest votes ever, and no one knows anyone who voted for him. Several years of increasingly intense riots and increasingly intense crackdowns.
    Switzerland betrayed its policy of privacy and neutrality (one of many cases over the last three years) to give information to the French government, leading to the arrest of some professor for sending emails they didn’t like. (Screw you, protonmail.)
    Italy seems to be course-correcting, but just a few years ago they were stealing land from farmers too.

    Everywhere on Earth outside of some African countries that are too disorganized went full Nazi over the flu.

    Setting up a life somewhere, learning a language and culture, is a decade+ investment. Where in Europe is it sane enough that normal people will be left alone and allowed to hold what they own? The Nordic countries? Eastern Europe?

    • Scott Locklin said, on December 8, 2022 at 11:17 am

      Fuck off we’re full.

      I made my spreadsheet like everyone else needs to, and am perfectly happy with my decision. BTW I agree with you about Holland, Germany and France (and to a lesser extent the Swiss, though that is perhaps a greater disappointment). Holland in particular is the most ominous and bizarre thing I’ve ever heard of: I hope the farmers string someone up.

      Ultimately changing countries is a bet on people, like an early stage startup. If you know a bunch of people from a country and they seem OK, it’s probably a decent bet. If they seem like a bunch of useless pustules (go look at what’s coming out of American schools), it’s not a good bet. My adoptive country is made up of sleek and good looking psychologically normal people, young and old and across social classes. To my extreme pleasure and professional satisfaction, my spreadsheet numeric scoring model autistically came to the same conclusion.

      BTW I don’t know too many Dutch, and I’ve never been to their country, but in my experience they are made up of excellent handsome-Thursday Chads and *extremely* psychologically fucked up zebra-hair people, so it’s obvious they’re heading in a bad direction.

      • ian said, on December 15, 2022 at 3:44 pm

        I think it’s Spain or Portugal, given your recent unusual references to obscure Spanish literature. And I have heard they are relatively easy to immigrate to, if you bring money.
        I don’t know anything about Portugal, but I know quite a bit about Spain and if it *is* Spain then I am not sure it’s much better than the US per your own public criteria.

        • nate-m said, on December 15, 2022 at 4:08 pm

          I have it under great authority from anonymous sources in the Whitehouse that he is in Belarus.

          If you can’t trust anonymous authorities, who can you trust?

          • Altitude Zero said, on December 15, 2022 at 9:30 pm

            Nah, he’s in Argentina – I hear he escaped by U-Boat – or possibly torpedo boat.

      • toastedposts said, on December 15, 2022 at 7:58 pm

        Fuck off we’re full.

        Fair enough. It’s your business to gatekeep your adoptive country, and my business to make my case wherever I might find greener pastures.

        I knew a few very interesting and very decent people in graduate school, from a few different places. They were not (to my knowledge) typical of their countries though, or indicative of prospects there. Not enough of them in any particular place to form much of a personal connection to these places, though I had some interesting conversations.

      • Privilege Checker said, on December 20, 2022 at 3:11 am

        “Fuck off we’re full”

        Haha it’s only a matter of time before your oligarchs use immigration to deal with low fertility rates. Such a spreadsheet would almost certainly point to Scandinavia. It’s a nice place. People are normal there. Good public infrastructure. Unlike the KWA.

        I can’t think of a city in America that can compete with Berlin or London, which are not outstandingly good by any means.

        Great healthcare if you’re rich.
        Economic powerhouse & good logistics
        Beautiful parks and natural areas.
        Pick and choose weather & culture but not both.
        Some nice places to live and visit if you’re rich (true of literally anywhere?)

        Declining safety in public areas.
        Declining political stability: corporate oligarchy and kakistocracy.
        Declining and failing public infrastructure.
        Declining education system.
        Declining work force (i.e., electricians, plumbers, skilled laborers)
        Declining health outcomes & obesity epidemic – [1].
        Declining mental health
        Increasing cultural weirdness (people no longer behave normally or have normal beliefs)
        Toxic work environments and work culture.
        Extreme wealth and income inequality
        Widespread institutional bureaucratic fuckery (I.e., justice system and places of work).
        Abysmal city planning, rampant decline of major cities and rapid, unfettered urban sprawl.

        [1] – Industrial locomotive equipment at most grocery stores.

        • Altitude Zero said, on December 20, 2022 at 4:53 pm

          I’m too old to start over somewhere else. I’ll go down with the ship, like it or not. Also, I don’t like the idea of the bastards running me out of the country my ancestors helped build and defend. We’ll try to buy you guys who are young enough to start over some time. Now if I was 20-30 years younger, I might feel differently, especially if I had very young kids…

          • Scott Locklin said, on December 20, 2022 at 5:06 pm

            I’d recommend any spirited young American man go abroad for education or work. Old too if you are not encumbered and can handle the transition. Leave the place to the “head girls” and see how they manage without toxic masculinity rays sabotaging their careers.

  6. Altitude Zero said, on December 8, 2022 at 2:49 pm

    The Dutch are entering the “Smash the Kulaks!” phase of The Great Reset. We all remember how that turned out last time. I’d recommend a little discreet food hoarding…

  7. ian said, on December 13, 2022 at 6:33 pm

    What do you think about LLNL achieving ignition? Write something about it!

    • Scott Locklin said, on December 14, 2022 at 11:27 am

      I commented on this the second to last time they recycled the same press release (in 2013) to drum up more funding:


      There’s no use going over it again; their claims are overtly and egregiously false. The only thing I could unearth is which particular details they’re lying about this time besides, “break even.”

      • ian said, on December 15, 2022 at 3:38 pm

        I hadn’t seen that. Thanks.

      • ian said, on December 15, 2022 at 4:00 pm

        That was sobering. Bummer. Did you write anything else on fusion?

        • toastedposts said, on December 15, 2022 at 8:03 pm

          I could write some general info stuff on magnetic confinement fusion. It’s not pseudoscience, but it’s not “right around the corner” either, and no one is being honest about it. IMO: All sources of potential energy for mankind are important enough to research, but dishonesty makes for bad policy. Especially when fusion is used as an excuse to defer the development of fission plants, which we can actually build right now to deliver power on a wide variety of scales.

          • Scott Locklin said, on December 15, 2022 at 9:34 pm

            Feel free to opine here if you need a place, or link anyway. That looks about right to me.

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